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Proportional Representation - the Real Agenda

Sorting the wheat from the chaff in B.C. Politics

Proportional Representation - the Real Agenda thanks to John Winter

The Pros and Cons of the 2018 B.C. Referendum on Electoral Reform

Proportional Representation - the Real Agenda thanks to John Winter

Today (First Past the Post, FPTP) vs Proportional Representation (PR)

Proportional Representation - the Real Agenda thanks to John Winter

Referendum Ballot with FPTP (First Past the Post) Option Selected



'The Big Lie'

“In the coming weeks, British Columbians will be asked to vote in a very important referendum on changing how we elect our MLAs, not an insignificant initiative. We’ve rejected proportional representation twice before. It’s essential we do so a third time. I support our current voting system, which is simple, produces stable governments and is one of the institutional pillars that all our successes stand on. On the first question on the ballot, I urge you to vote in favour of First Past the Post (FPTP), option one. The alternative is to jump into the unknown. Three versions of Proportional Representation (PR) are on offer. Two have never been used or tried anywhere in the world and the third is presently used in just four countries. That third option is called Mixed Member Proportional (MMP). It was soundly rejected in BC by the hard-working Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform in 2005 because of the damage it does to local representation.

I point this out because there is a big lie in this referendum campaign. It underscores everything proponents of electoral reform say. The claims that PR jurisdictions out-perform ones like ours, or that PR improves voter turn-out or that the environment fares better under their preferred electoral system are not comparing apples to apples. Such claims stand on a foundation of misdirection, lies and obfuscations. That is because the electoral systems that inform the research findings are not even on the ballot in BC this fall.

The Yes side says PR is used in more than 80 countries. In truth, only four countries actually use any of the forms that appear on BC’s referendum ballot. The rest use some form of “list” PR. That means parties make lists of candidates to be elected, and seats are allocated based on the overall proportion of votes. Over 90% of the countries held up as examples use electoral systems BC isn’t even voting on. Citizens of countries that do use list system are becoming very uncomfortable with this form of election. The evidence is clear on at least two fronts.

First, radical parties of the left and the right are taking advantage of the low threshold to win a seat. They seize on voters’ fears and frustrations and run single-issue, municipal-style campaigns based on emotion, ignoring vast swathes of policy. You can see this today in Germany, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Rumania, even Italy, which has had 61 governments in 67 years under such systems.

Secondly, countries are constantly fiddling with their electoral processes to try and make a flawed system work better. New Zealand has recently passed a bill that would strip MPs of their seat if they switch parties or their leader kicks them out of the party. Germany is trying for the third time to introduce a vote threshold to minimize small parties. The second question on our ballots in the fall referendum reflects the dense academic nature of this attempt to fix proportional representation.

Let’s look at the one option on the ballot used in the real world - MMP. Under this model 40% of the elected members are from party lists. This means constituencies will be at least 40% larger, with a real impact in the north and interior of BC. For example, the provincial riding of Stikine already large, if increased by 40% to allow for party lists, would be larger than New Zealand! Taking systems in use in small countries and transferring them to BC in a social experiment disenfranchises people outside the Lower Mainland. There is nothing fair about that. Local representation is cast aside.

On the No side, we know how important a local MLA is. Our current system, First Past the Post (FPTP) puts local representation first, where it should be. Most countries which use FPTP are or were members of the British Commonwealth. It is part of our heritage, part of who we are as Canadians, mirroring our Parliamentary traditions.

MMP is used for parliamentary elections in four countries including Germany and New Zealand. In Germany, it took almost six months to form a coalition government after last September's election, and is growing ever more fragile. Germany’s Bundestag is now home to seven parties, including radical parties on both the right and the left. Proportional representation amplifies their impact by giving them legitimacy and resources to advance their extremist agendas.

New Zealand recently switched electoral systems to MMP. It’s not going well. The current government is a hodge-podge of the Labour Party, the Greens and an anti-immigrant party called New Zealand First. The latter two members didn’t elect a single member in constituency elections by getting the most votes. They leveraged their seven percent of the popular vote into four cabinet posts, including that of Deputy Prime Minister.

This is the big lie.

PR promoters claim that proportional representation is the solution to all our electoral woes and point to its widespread use around the world. The truth is that the options we’ve been given are complex, esoteric and used in very few places with little experience to point to. We’ve rejected changing our system in referendums twice this century for very good reasons. How many more times do we have to go to this well? Another lie is in the details. All three options on the ballot leave the important details, including maps and the number of MLAs until after the referendum. It’s only then the NDP/Green marriage of convenience will carefully choose those to favour their electoral prospects. This referendum is a desperate move to give the Green party a permanent platform. If they can elect three people in a small corner of the province, they deserve three seats.

With apologies to Churchill, FPTP is the worst electoral system, except for all the others. Vote to keep our current system, and ignore the lies, vote to keep the status quo.”

by John Winter, Past President and CEO of the BC Chamber of Commerce, October 2018
 

The new guide from Elections B.C. doesn't tell us that, based on historical voting patterns, our future under proportional representation will consist entirely of successive minority governments, dickering for power through backroom deals with splinter groups. It doesn't tell us that the balance of power may be in the hands of any radical bunch that can get five per cent of the popular vote. It also doesn't tell us that all future provincial elections will be fought and decided in Vancouver and Victoria, while the rest of the province is relegated to insignificance. Pro-rep guarantees all three outcomes. Count me as a decided 'No! Clare Stevens, October 2018


QuotaBills
Voting is a civic sacrament. - Theodore Hesburgh

Politics makes strange postmasters. - Kin Hubbard

Voters want a fraud they can believe in. - Will Durst

Everybody knows politics is a contact sport. - Barrack Obama

If men were angels, no government would be necessary. - James Madison

If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal. - Emma Goldman

Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under. - H L Mencken

An honest man in politics shines more than he would elsewhere. - Mark Twain

Politics is too serious a matter to be left to the politicians. - Charles de Gaulle

The sad duty of politics is to establish justice in a sinful world. - Reinhold Niebuhr

I wish the government would put a tax on pianos for the incompetent. - Edith Sitwell

Every woman dreams of her own political career and her own place in life. - Raisa M. Gorbachev

Vote for the man who promises least; he'll be the least disappointing. - Bernard Baruch

No science is immune to the infection of politics and the corruption of power. - Jacob Bronowski

Democracy used to be a good thing, but now it has gotten into the wrong hands. - Jesse Helms

The police force cannot be completely independent of the executive government. - P Chidambaram

Democracy is also a form of religion; it is the worship of jackals by jackasses. - H L Mencken

My sheer existence is like a political act to a lot of people. It's not to me. - Grimes

Either the government will be given to us or we shall seize it by marching on Rome. - Benito Mussolini

Everyone wants to eat at the government's table, but nobody wants to do the dishes. - Werner Finck

There's no trick to being a humorist when you have the whole government working for you. - Will Rogers

Politics is for people who have a passion for changing life but lack a passion for living it. - Tom Robbins

I think it's an absolute disaster that Australia, the government, allowed kangaroo culling. - Steve Irwin

Democracy does not guarantee equality of conditions - it only guarantees equality of opportunity. - Irving Kristol

The single most exciting thing you encounter in government is competence, because it's so rare. - Daniel P Moynihan

Animals are like little children a bit. They're simple. They don't have politics driving them. - Annabelle Sabloff

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard. - H L Mencken

When governments become large, voters cannot exercise close oversight, otherwise known as political power. - Maggie Gallagher

The largest party in America is neither the Democrats nor the Republicans. It's the party of non-voters. - Robert Reich

Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable. - John Kenneth Galbraith

Democracy means that anyone can grow up to be president, and anyone who doesn't grow up can be vice president. - Johnny Carson

He is one of those wise philanthropists who, in a time of famine, would vote for nothing but a supply of toothpicks. - Douglas Jerrold

I'm not interested in cutting the feet off my characters or stretching them to make them fit my certain political view. - Margaret Atwood

It is not in the nature of politics that the best men should be elected. The best men do not want to govern their fellowmen. - George MacDonald

Politics: A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage. - Ambrose Bierce

Politics is not a bad profession. If you succeed there are many rewards, if you disgrace yourself you can always write a book. - Ronald Reagan

Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost. - John Quincy Adams

We're at a point in history where everyone needs to pay attention to politics. Too much is at stake for us to be apathetic. - Kevin Costner

I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn't lose any voters, okay? It's, like, incredible. - Donald Trump

Jokes of the proper kind, properly told, can do more to enlighten questions of politics, philosophy, and literature than any number of dull arguments. - Isaac Asimov


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